October 12 is recognized as National Farmer’s Day and as any South Dakota farmer or rancher will tell you, farm life can be demanding and stressful. Symptoms of stress can run high in agriculture, especially during times of unpredictable weather and volatile markets. Additional stressors may include farm and family finances, mental and physical health challenges, family tension and other relationship issues.
“Each year on National Farmer’s Day we take time to thank our hardworking farmers and ranchers for everything they do to feed the world,” said Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources Secretary Hunter Roberts. “We also recognize how stressful their jobs can be and strongly encourage our producers to reach out for help if they need it. No one should wait to be in a crisis to seek the care they need.”
Chronic stress can take a toll on a person’s physical and mental health. It can lead to depression, anxiety and even thoughts of suicide. Prolonged stress can lead to impaired thinking.
Some symptoms of stress include:
- Physical – Muscle aches, frequent headaches, frequent upset stomach, and fatigue
- Behavioral – Difficulty sleeping, irritability/easy to anger, inability to focus, difficulty making decisions and increased use of alcohol/drugs
- Emotional – Feelings of anxiety, panic, frustration, impatience, restlessness, isolation, hopelessness, and discouragement
- Relationships – Communication difficulties, conflict with family members and friends, strained interactions, avoidance of others, and verbal or physical altercations
“Those who work in our state’s largest industry do not have to do it alone,” said Department of Social Services (DSS) Cabinet Secretary Laurie Gill. “There is help available to deal with stress and other mental health challenges”.
It is not always easy or comfortable to ask someone how they are doing in stressful times, but often, people will feel relieved that someone noticed, that someone cares. This might be all it takes.
Here are five steps to help start the conversation:
- Just ask – It’s ok to ask, “Are you thinking about suicide?” There is a common misconception that asking someone if they are suicidal, gives them the idea. Asking in this direct, nonjudgmental manner can open the door for effective conversation.
- Keep them safe – If they are thinking about suicide, ask if they’ve thought about how they would do it. Then separate them from the situation or anything they could use to hurt themselves. If you need help, reach out and ask.
- Help them connect – Rally support. Contact family, friends, teachers, coaches, church members and help them build a network. Share the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline available by call, text, or chat.
- Listen – Do not dismiss or judge. You don’t have to offer advice. Just listen.
- Be there – Be there physically or by phone. Don’t commit to anything you are not willing or able to accomplish. If you are unable to be physically present, talk with them to develop some idea for others who might be able to help.
- Follow up – Check in on a regular basis. Continue to show you care. Have a plan in place if you can’t reach them.
If you see or hear signs that someone you know could be experiencing a mental health challenge, be the one to reach out. It might be enough to save a life.
Additional resources available to farmers and ranchers include:
- The Farm and Rural Stress Hotline at 1.800.691.4336. It is free and confidential support with Avera’s skilled professionals.
- The Behavioral Health Voucher Program offers funding assistance and support for mental health services for farmers, ranchers and their families. For more information, visit 605strong.com, call the SDSU Extension at 605.688.5125 or simply call 211.
- To find a local mental health provider in your area, visit dss.sd.gov or call the South Dakota Treatment Resource Hotline at 1-800-920-4343. Services can be in person or via telehealth and financial assistance is available.